While spending a weekend in Oklahoma City we decided to make a quick stop at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. I say “quick” as we are not into cowboys, Indians, or western art; but this museum was highly ranked and I had read about it in a few magazines, so I figured we should give it a try. Wow were we surprised!
We drove to the museum from our downtown hotel, about 15 minutes away, and found plenty of free parking. The museum does not look that impressive from the outside, but what’s inside is really quite amazing. The lobby is huge, with a two-story atrium including a large statue of a cowboy. We paid our admission (with a coupon you can find everywhere in OKC) and headed off to the right where most of the exhibits are located.
The museum has a large exhibit that is a recreation of an old western town, complete with all the buildings (bank, sheriff, school, shops, blacksmith…) you would’ve found in a western town. Most of them you can go inside, and they are either recreations of the interiors or offer a museum-like exhibit. Overall, this was a very impressive exhibit, and probably my favorite part of the museum.
The next exhibit (or series of exhibits) focused on American Indian history (very interesting artifacts and displays of Indian clothing & supplies), western movies, the cowboy (recreations of life as a real cowboy, not the Hollywood version), large collections of cowboy boots & hats, and an entire exhibit dedicated to the rodeo. This series of exhibits (they are one after another) was very educational and entertaining and actually took us about 2 hours to go through.
|Playing in the dedicated children’s exhibit|
From there we moved onto a dedicated children’s exhibit that is in another building, but only a 2 minute walk away. The children’s exhibit was great for our toddler, who could run and climb on everything. They had recreations of cabins, animals to climb on, and all sorts of western toys to play with. I found a dedicated children’s area to be a great touch to this museum!
|Life in the old west|
The museum has western artwork everywhere, and several large galleries are dedicated to art. The pieces were expensive (think $30k for a small statue) so it was interesting just to look at the prices. I am not an art fan, but they had a lot of art galleries; we walked through them all, which took about 30 minutes at a quick pace.
Although the weather wasn’t great that day, I did note that they also had extensively landscaped grounds behind the building with additional small outdoor exhibits (and likely just a pleasant walk). There is of course a large sit-down restaurant on-site and a large gift shop.
In the end our “quick” stop lasted almost 5 hours! I was really surprised about the high-quality of the exhibits, how interesting I found them all to be, and really by the fact that I learned something (honestly I usually don’t) about cowboys & Indian life in America.